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Ola Sigurdson


Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and
Visiting address
Läraregatan 3A
411 33 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 200
405 30 Göteborg

About Ola Sigurdson

Birth and Education

I was born in Dalstorp in 1966 and grew up in Ulricehamn, both small towns in the southwest of Sweden. In 1985, after graduating from upper-secondary school, I moved to Gothenburg to study for a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, literary studies and economics, after which I completed a three-year programme of study at the theological seminary in Örebro. In 1991 I went to Lund University to study for a doctoral degree in systematic theology, which I earned in 1996 with the thesis Karl Barth som den andre: En studie i den svenska teologins Barth-reception [Karl Barth as the Other: A Study of the reception of Barth in Swedish Theology]. Two years later I was appointed docent in systematic theology (habilitation) at the same university. In 2008 I was appointed professor of systematic theology at the University of Gothenburg and have worked in this capacity to the present.

Academic Positions and Research Interests

After finishing my doctoral programme I worked as a part-time lecturer in systematic theology at the Stockholm School of Theology and a part-time research scholar at Lund University for a project funded by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation: Värdetraditioner, värdekonflikter och värdegemenskap i kulturarv och nutida samhälle [Value Traditions, Value Conflicts and Common Value Systems in Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Society]. In December 1999 I was awarded the Torgny Segerstedt Pro futura scholarship by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation in collaboration with the Swedish Collegium of Advanced Research (SCAS) in Uppsala. Under this four-year scholarship I spent the spring term of 2000 at SCAS in Uppsala and the 2001-2002 academic year at the Centre for Advanced Religious and Theological Studies (CARTS), Faculty of Divinity, and Wolfson College, both of which were at the University of Cambridge in England. During this period I formed a strong attachment to the University of Cambridge, which is ongoing through regular visits to colleagues still working there.

I began working as senior lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Gothenburg in January 2003, but have also been on periodic part-time research sabbaticals. In April 2008 I was promoted to full professor of systematic theology, including also ethics and the philosophy of religion. 2010-2011 I was on sabbatical as a visiting scholar at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, NJ. Through this year, I got the opportunity to make new academic friendships at Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. From July 2011 and onwards I work as a director of the multidisciplinary Centre for Culture and Health ( Apart from this position, I devote my time to supervising doctoral students and to do research.

Academic interests

Over the years I have developed a broad range of research interests, one being the intersection between traditional systematic theology and continental theory. In this respect I have written about the question of embodiment in the Western philosophical and theological tradition in my book Himmelska kroppar, 2006 [Heavenly Bodies]. I have also collaborated with Jayne Svenungsson of Stockholm School of Theology to publish the anthology Postmodern teologi, 2006 [Postmodern Theology]. Another area of interest has been political philosophy and political theology, which has resulted in the books Den lyckliga filosofin, 2000 [The Happy Philosophy], Det postsekulära tillståndet, 2009 [The Post-Secular Condition] and in Theology and Marxism in Eagleton and Žižek: A Conspiracy of Hope, 2012. Lastly there is my interest in the theology of culture – i.e. a theological reflection on contemporary popular culture such as film, literature and music. This interest has thus far resulted in the popular collection of essays Världen är en främmande plats, 2003 [The World is a Strange Place] and the anthology Film och religion, 2005 [Film and Religion] edited with Tomas Axelson of Dalarna University.

Ongoing research

I have recently published a book on the relationship between theology and Marxism in two of its most well-known renewers of the Marxist tradition, the British literary critic Terry Eagleton and the Slovene philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek. Today, my research is mainly focused upon a research project on religion, culture and health, a multidisciplinary project that I run together with professor Yvonne Leffler (comparative literature) and professor Marie Demker (political science). This project is funded by the Stena A Olssons foundation for research and culture, started in 2010 and will run until 2014. More precisely, I am in the process of writing a book on the relation between humour, health and theology as well as articles about medical humanities.

Miscellaneous Activities

Apart from my work as a professor and director at the University of Gothenburg, I regularly serve a guest lecturer and external examiner at various universities in Sweden, Scandinavia and Europe, and lecture at various cultural, educational and religious institutions around Sweden. I also serve as a commentator for several daily newspapers as well as for public radio and television. Finally, my duties include those of an administrative nature. Between 2006 and 2009 I served as a board member of the faculty of humanities at the University of Gothenburg as well as a member of the administrative group for the doctoral programme. From July 2012 and three years onwards, I am again a board member of the faculty of the humanities as well as a member of the administrative group for research.

I am the University of Gothenburg's board representative for SCAS in Uppsala, a member of the scientific advisory board for the Skaraborg Institute (a medical institute) and a member of the board for the Theological Forum in Gothenburg. Between 2003 and 2006 I was a member of the Church of Sweden Research Council, and between 2006 and 2008 I sat on the Committee for Research in Educational Science at the Swedish Research Council. I have also been a member of The Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in Gothenburg since December 2009.